For the first time in years, a definitive plan may be starting to take shape and ease what many in northern Colorado say is Windsor’s biggest eyesore.
The Downtown Development Authority and the owner of the historic mill on the east edge of Main Street are exploring a partnership that could help get the building functional and thriving in the near future, possibly putting an end to a years-long saga of ownership woes, natural disaster and crushed dreams.
“It was tragic that the tornado took it down, but it’s an opportunity that we can maybe go forward with and have something that can be a feather in our hat for Windsor,” said Bob Winter, president of the DDA, during Monday’s joint work session with the Windsor Town Board.
Specifically, the DDA is going to explore funding through grants and other streams to conduct a feasibility study and determine what can be done with the mill in the future, how much certain scenarios could cost and what it would take to make the structure and any potential new businesses successful. Winter said he wants to work with the current owner, Ron Lauer, but added that in order to truly get things moving, the DDA and other parts of the town may need to take the lead.
“The potential for access to grants and such is greater if it has a public ownership,” said Town Manager Kelly Arnold, pointing to a series of hang ups and dead ends during the past several years when it comes to getting the building functional again.
The mill has a storied history littered with ownership changes, different visions and, since the 2008 tornado partially demolished sections of the building, challenges. Built in 1899 and functional until 1990, it has long stood as a beacon of the town’s past, rooted heavily in agriculture. When it closed, ideas started flowing about what it could become — from an apartment complex to a pool hall — but nothing ever got off the ground.
“I’m open minded about it and positive,” Lauer said Thursday referring to a potential partnership with the DDA or other groups. “I’m willing to listen and to hear.” Lauer said during an interview earlier this year he recognized the community wants something done about what has become the biggest sign that a tornado ripped through Windsor. That’s why he started to spruce up the exterior with grass and a new sprinkler system. But it will take a lot more than that to get the building’s collapsed walls standing tall again.
And at the center of all of that stands money — something Lauer said he doesn’t have a lot of.
“I just can’t afford it,” he said previously. “It’s all a process, you know? It will take money to do that, and I don’t have that right now.”
Lauer has been working with the DDA for several months, and discussions are progressing, Winter said, adding that by bringing in a larger feasibility study, strengthening the partnerships and establishing a clear vision, things could finally get moving.
And that, he said, could open up endless opportunity for downtown Windsor.
“We have to have a plan,” Winter said. “You can’t put up bricks and mortar and not have a plan.”